Many aspects of the free school meal policy are frustrating, but over the past couple of weeks things have descended into farce, as a result I have become increasingly angry.
It’s long been known the genesis of the Lib Dems Universal infant free school was a dirty deal between Clegg and Cameron, but I was taken aback by the content of Jay Raynors interview with Clegg in the Observer. It’s hard to know if Nick Clegg is stupid or just naive, perhaps it is both?
“David Cameron said to me that he wanted £600m to spend on what I like to call the unmarried couples tax penalty,” he says of the Tory tax credits for married couples. “I said: ‘Then I want to do something of equal monetary value but of greater benefit to more people.’” (note £600m was an underestimate)
Nick Clegg openly admitting that the Lib Dems and Conservatives horse-traded billions of pounds of tax payers money on policies, specifically chosen to appeal to core constituencies. Cameron insisted on money for his married tax allowance to pander to Tory traditionalists and Clegg demanded equal amount be spent on a policy that he thought would win the Lib Dem some desperately needed votes.
To the surprise of everyone concerned, Clegg opted for universal free school meals ostensibly on the back of the school food plan, but without any consultation he bastardised the recommendation into the UIFSM policy schools are now burdened with.
Neither of these policies offers value for money, but because they want to stay in power, these coalition partners are spending billions of pounds of our money on these unjustified policies. Both parties conveniently ignore the deficit, signing off billions without a business case as they whip them through parliament without any proper scrutiny.
I genuinely don’t know why more people are not outraged? This is the dirtiest nastiest political fix imaginable, Clegg happy to brag about his part in a quid pro quo arrangement, using our money to buy party support. It sickens me, it really does.
Then we had Cleggs latest electoral wheeze, the Lib Dems plan to extend the universal free school meal policy to all juniors, he bats off questions on budgeting by insisting “It will cost the same again as the current policy.”
Really? He must think we are all as stupid as he is?
No one knows how much the current policy actually cost. We do however know it cost far more than the £150m the lib dems eventually found, with schools and LAs being lumbered with huge bills from implementing the policy. In terms of time and effort, the cost is enormous as school leaders are diverted from other work to implement this policy.
Many schools and caterers are already stretched beyond what is practical, they simply can’t extend the policy to all KS2 in their existing facilities. Clegg forgot to include infrastructure costs with infant free school meals, he has no idea how much infrastructure is needed to extend it KS2, but he continues to make these commitments without learning any of the lessons of UIFSM (because he thinks it all went fantastically, it didnt)
As if to highlight just how little though goes into his announcements, Clegg conveniently ignores the fact that KS1 have three year groups and KS2 has four, so schools will need to feed an extra 33% and let’s not forget, older children need bigger portions, but “It will cost the same again as the current policy.”
So once again another free school meals omnishambles that isn’t being thought through. Clegg isn’t looking at evidence, he can’t be, he announced this expansion prior to the start of term, before he knew how it was going. Surely it would have been sensible to wait, to see if the policy makes a difference, to check it offers value for money before making a decision on extending? Clegg arrogantly assumes the Universal free school meals policy will be transformative, he presumes we will see some return from the billions of pounds he is spending based on his misreading of the evidence. But he doesn’t have the gall to check, to research outcomes before throwing more money at it.
Why are people not shouting him down on this? Putting his claims to the test, calling him out on the funding and the VFM prior to throwing good money at this again?
It is bad enough that Clegg glibly spends billions of pounds, we as a nation don’t have on feeding every infant, (many of whose parents can easily afford a meal). Bad enough that we are spending this money for little or no proven benefit, but Frank Fields recent report in the Independent really made my blood boil.
Whilst we effetely give a £440 tax rebate to parents who can afford meals, the state abandons parents in receipt of Working Tax Credit, meaning their children, most, officially living in poverty, are unable to claim FSM (or associated Pupil Premium)
Some of the poorest workers in society are not eligible to receive free meals, yet thanks to Nick Clegg we now borrow billions to spend on meals for the wealthy. Is this the “stronger economy and fairer society” the lib dems talk about?
So next time Clegg pretends this policy is about fairness, remember that the poorest people already get FSM as an essential safety net. Remember that the lib dems are complicit in the poorest workers being unable to access FSM. Remember he had the option to follow the SFP recommendation to roll out UFSM to all primary schools starting in the poorest areas, but decided against helping the poorest in preference for a more PR friendly option.
I am outraged by these actions and I think more people should be too reluctance to criticise a policy that “sounds” so attractive? Perhaps people are just taken in by the lies the lib dems spew?
My final outrage is once again targeted at the lies we are told. Some of you will be aware of The recent ReaserchEd conference, where educationalists looked to evidence based policy to drive forward improvements in our school system. Those attending must have been astounded at the way evidence has been abused and ignored in the promotion of this policy by the very same people who condone their emphasis on facts.
As a nation we should be embarrassed that a nine year old has a better grasp of the pertinent facts than The Deputy Prime Minister, yet remarkably the press concentrated on Rohans age rather than the fact Clegg lied and lied and lied again.
If anyone has any doubts and wants the evidence that Clegg is lying, please follow the links.
That UFSM is the best intervention
Schools had a year to prepare
The policy was well though through
Only 200 schools issues cold meals
All schools are moving towards hot meals
The policy wasn’t five years in the making
UFSM offers value for money
This policy epitomises filthy politics at its worst, supporting those who can already afford it whilst refusing to support to those in need. A brazen attempt to buy votes by a desperate party.
This stinks, join in with the outrage and challenge the lies!